We as football fans love little more than loyalty, with the “one club man” idealized and applauded perhaps more than any other player. However, by insisting upon players “knowing” the club and not joining rivals as many Chelsea fans have done with Petr Cech, we are in danger of becoming selfish and holding footballers up to a standard not quite possible for many to reach.
Of course, it is not unreasonable to expect players to have an affinity to the club, singing the club anthem, kissing the badge and interacting with supporters are all perfectly justifiable expectations many fans have of players, with Petr Cech and Frank Lampard doing these more than most. So when it was announced Frank Lampard would leave for Manchester City on loan, the sense of betrayal felt by some fans was harsh in my view.
After all, this was a man who had spent 13 years at Chelsea and arguably became the club’s greatest ever player while at the Bridge. Those who claimed it was wrong for Lampard to join Chelsea’s main title rivals suggested it was disingenuous to the club, but this negated the fact that Lampard was let go, no longer part of the club’s plans, yet proved his capability to still perform at the top level.
Criticism of Lampard is therefore inconsiderate of his desire to prove he was still capable of performing at the top level and an example of what I feel has gone too far: judging footballers at an impossibly high standard.
The idea that footballers should be judged to human standards and with considerable empathy is arguably an unpopular viewpoint, they do after all make the levels of money most could scarcely dream of by the age of 25. Yet despite all this, many are still ambitious and seek to create a legacy for themselves as Lampard did to break the record for a midfield goalscorer, while others have personal interests for moving to rival clubs.
Petr Cech does indeed have personal reasons: he is settled in London, and besides Chelsea, to be at the top his only option is Arsenal. He has ample justification to stay in London even if playing for Arsenal, and the Chelsea fans who criticise Cech for going to Arsenal rather than say, PSG, are guilty of selfishness in my view. A father will of course put his children first, and his career shall not suffer as a result of moving for Arsenal.
The idea that Cech should put fans’ feelings over his own family’s comfort appears to not be given Cech their empathy. He is not doing anything most would not do for family reasons, and by expecting him to uproot his family just so a few fans don’t have to watch him perhaps deny Chelsea a victory against Arsenal at some point this season, one is guilty of lacking genuine empathy.
To say all footballers should not show any loyalty is not my purpose, I would much prefer it if players such as Luis Figo many years ago and Raheem Sterling now were more loyal to their clubs, but I am urging fans to realise players are no different from any of us, their families, their reputations and their desire to play at the top level guide their decisions in many cases, and ultimately fans have to accept that.
In the case of Petr Cech it was all of these factors, and only rivalry is making this decision hard for him. Just like Lampard he would stay but needs regular football, and of course has practical considerations such as the welfare of his family.
These are perfectly reasonable factors influencing his decision, and rather than partisan closed mindedness, I feel all Chelsea fans should support Petr’s decision and respect him for putting family first.
Written by Joshua Sodergren
Follow Joshua on Twitter @JoshSalad365
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